The Iron Skipper Shows Signs of Weakness

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Sat 8 Dec 2012 23:22

Position 01:47S 040:52W  On passage to Ilha Dois Lencois

Date: 8 December 2012 – 2100 local time – 2300 UTC


The Iron Skipper Shows Signs of Weakness


Apologies for the lack of blogs, but I’ve been under the weather the last few days. OK, it was a bit more than that. One hour out of Fernando do Noronha I started developing flu-like symptoms. High temperature, aching bones, “prickly” skin, back ache, headache, pain behind my eyeballs. I was alternating between sweating so profusely I could have (and probably should have if I had had the strength) wrung my sheets out, and shivering so violently I’m surprised that the uncontrollable chattering of my teeth haven’t knocked some of my fillings out. This was no man flu. I was feeling like death. The actual death bit didn’t last much longer than 24 hours (although it felt like about four days) but a further two days on I am still slightly nauseous and feeling pretty below par and quite weak. And I’m still spending most of my off-watches sleeping my recovery, hence the lack of blogs.


I’m pretty convinced it is heatstroke rather than the even more inconvenient malaria or Dengue fever (which can kill you). Being a veteran Antarctican, I don’t do heat very well, and I’ve suffered from it before on a couple of occasions with similar symptoms. Meanwhile in London, the Downstairs Skipper who has quite sensibly been assuming the worst, has been envisaging cancelling her first Christmas in London for years and flying out to some jungle clinic to administer to me.


Meanwhile, the ship has been run smoothly in my effective absence by Sally and Lawrence who have administered to me tirelessly, providing cups of weak milkless tea, small bananas and apples cut into small pieces – just to get anything down me at all. The one thing I had no difficulty in getting down me was water and I must have been drinking about 5 litres a day (normally I only have water in my tea, coffee or whisky). Sally and Larry, the Dynamic Duo have been brilliant. They even tried to persuade me not to stand my watches – but no chance. I have a strict rule that only if you have fallen overboard are you excused watches. This was to stop namby-pambies feeling a little seasick and asking some other hard-working member of the crew to stand a double watch – it simply wouldn’t be fair. I hadn’t envisaged having to apply my strict rule to me. Talk about being hoist by one’s own petard. Sally and Larry did twice, collectively, persuade me to go down below, three hours in to a four hour watch. At the time, whilst they were in their swimmers I was wearing jeans, three layers and a jacket and was still shivering so violently that I couldn’t see the instruments, let alone focus on an approaching ship, so I was pretty useless.


But hopefully in the next day or two I will be as right as rain, and back to my usual scintillating form.


Meanwhile, we are three days into what was planned to be a 5 ½ day passage but because we’re going so fast it will be 4 ½ days. We’re travelling due west along the northeast coast of Brazil to a little island called Dois Lencois where a small community of about 200 people live, without electricity, surrounded by dramatic sand dunes and living off a diet of fish and the most enormous prawns you’ve ever seen (I damned well hope I have recovered by then – the idea of seeing these delectable creatures and not being able to eat them doesn’t bear thinking about). Very few visitors come to the island because of its remoteness, and almost no yachts because it is not in any of the few pilot books and, looking at the charts, it looks completely inaccessible unless you were lucky as I was to meet a Brazilian couple who gave me the lowdown (and said it is one of the nicest places they visited down the entire coast of Brazil). The sail has been brilliant with a good steady trade wind from behind, we’ve been bowling along at high speed and after the first day and a half we picked up the strong west going current which is giving us an extra 1 ½ knots. Gentlemens sailing indeed (not that there are any gentlemen on board).


I’m mindful that I haven’t given you a report yet on our fleeting visit to Fernando de Noronha. It was such a wonderful place that I want to give it proper credit, so a belated full report will follow when I have the strength.